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Seton-La Salle crushes Bishop Canevin to stay unbeaten in 4-AA

| Monday, Jan. 14, 2013, 10:06 p.m.
Christopher Horner
Seton-La Salle's Naje Gibson scores past Bishop Canevin's Gina Vallecorsa during the second half Monday, Jan. 14, 2013, at Bishop Canevin. (Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review)

Mimicking a custom Pitt's “Oakland Zoo” uses when starting lineups are introduced at the Petersen Events Center, the Bishop Canevin student section held newspapers in front of their faces when Seton-La Salle's lineup was announced Monday.

Judging by what followed on the Crusaders' home court, Bishop Canevin students probably wished they'd kept their eyes covered.

Defending PIAA Class AA girls basketball champion Seton-La Salle dominated, beating No. 2 Bishop Canevin, 66-35, in what had been a highly anticipated Section 4 showdown between the top two teams in WPIAL Class AA.

“We want to come out and dominate every game and kill the spirits of the other team,” Rebels coach John Ashaolu said. “That's what I preach over there. That's how we practice, and it translates most of the time over into the game.”

It did Monday in what ended up as No. 1 Seton-La Salle's 55th consecutive victory against a WPIAL opponent. Naje Gibson had 19 points and Nicolette Newman 14 for the two-time reigning WPIAL champion Rebels (12-1, 6-0).

The Rebels' win streak against section opponents was extended to 30. Their last section loss came at Bishop Canevin on Feb. 15, 2010.

Since then, the Rebels have won seven straight — including last season's WPIAL title game and a 2011 WPIAL semifinal — against their rivals just 5 miles away. The average margin of victory in those games is 14.9.

Seton-La Salle more than doubled that margin Monday — by design.

The Rebels' only loss over the past two seasons was to Centerville, Ohio, on Dec. 28. They've won five in a row since by an average of 36.2 points.

“After that (Centerville) game, I've been telling the girls, ‘See how it feels to lose. You don't want to have that feeling again,' ” said Ashaolu, who is in his first season as coach. “ ‘Come out in games from here on out to make a statement.'

“I told them I wasn't going to be satisfied today with a 10-point win, that we wanted to make a statement and have a big, huge lead.”

That the Rebels did. Several of them.

Using its trademark crisp ball movement, Seton-La Salle scored the first 10 points of the game and had extended that lead to 16-3 by the time 5 12 minutes had been played. The Rebels led, 20-5, at the end of the first quarter and were up by as many as 21 in the second quarter. They opened the second half on an 8-0 run to extend their lead to 39-15.

Seton-La Salle's largest lead of the game was 35.

“Even though we were up, we know they have good shooters, so we knew we didn't want to let up,” Gibson said. “We just kept playing all the way through until the game was over.”

Carly Forse had 15 points to lead Bishop Canevin (11-2, 5-1), which has won its past 19 section games against opponents other than Seton-La Salle. Half of the Crusaders' 14 losses over the past three seasons have come to the Rebels.

Frustrations began to boil over for Bishop Canevin in what evolved into a physical, chippy game. Freshman Gina Vallecorsa was called for a technical on a hard foul in the fourth quarter.

“They beat us,” Crusaders coach Tim Joyce mused. “They just beat us in every which way you can.”

Chris Adamski is a freelance writer.

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